Author Archive: Mark Quigley

December 15, 2014

SoftLayer in 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, we’re reflecting on another exciting year: our proudest moments, smartest innovations, and continued growth. It’s been an incredible year being part of IBM, and we continue to broaden our reach while adding new capabilities to our portfolio of cloud services.

SoftLayer’s IaaS platform has become the centerpiece of IBM’s cloud portfolio, providing a scalable, secure base for the global delivery of IBM’s cloud services, spanning extensive middleware and SaaS solutions. IBM has either built or bought 100 cloud properties over the last five years, and SoftLayer is the foundation or the piece that brings it all together.

Expanding our Global Footprint
In January, IBM announced its $1.2 billion commitment to expand its global cloud footprint, including plans to open 15 new SoftLayer data centers. Our first data center to open in 2014 was in Hong Kong, followed by London, Toronto, Melbourne, and Paris, with more to follow. We also launched two data centers for U.S. government workloads in Ashburn, Virginia and one in Dallas, Texas. These data centers are reserved for government customers and will be certified for U.S. Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance.

With our new international facilities, we’ve tripled our footprint in Europe and Asia. Expanding our physical presence in these geographies gives our customers SoftLayer solutions for workloads and data that need to remain local, while providing additional data redundancy options within key regions around the world. With our data centers and points of presence (PoPs) combined, SoftLayer is on track for world domination.

Read more:
+IBM Commits $1.2 Billion to Expand Global Cloud Footprint

Hourly Bare Metal
Our bare metal cloud differentiates us by providing an ideal solution for the toughest workloads in the cloud, including big data and analytics that require high performance. For more than 10 years, we’ve been refining, pioneering, and innovating our bare metal cloud. This year we unveiled a new offering: new bare metal servers that are deployed in less than 30 minutes and billed by the hour. These hourly bare metal servers provide the raw performance of physical servers with shorter commitments, making it easier than ever to deploy computing-intensive workloads on SoftLayer at will.

Read more:
+Hourly Bare Metal

Growth
In 2014, we’ve continued to experience incredible growth. Since being acquired by IBM, SoftLayer has added thousands of new customers at an average rate of 1,000 new accounts per month. To match our aggressive business growth, our employee base is expanding as well.

“We expected to almost double this year, and to almost double again next year," said SoftLayer COO Francisco Romero. “In Dallas, SoftLayer expects to hire workers to fill 250 new jobs by the end of 2015.”

In order to accommodate our growing employee population, we’ll be relocating our Dallas headquarters to a new space early next year.

We look forward to serving you from our new address, 14001 North Dallas Parkway.

Read more:
+SoftLayer to Double Its Dallas Headquarters

-@quigleymar

May 23, 2013

The Power of the Internet: Breaking into Global Markets

The widespread adoption of smartphones and tablets has dramatically changed the way the world accesses the Internet recent years. Continued declines in smartphone cost will drive penetration even further into economies that have not had the buying power to join the Internet revolution. Over the next decade we'll see this market opportunity explode as these new users come on line. We are seeing the emergence of a new "middle class" being empowered by technology with the latest mobile applications and breakthroughs.

The power of the Internet resides in its ability to transcend borders. Application developers in Indonesia or Vietnam can happily find a virtual home selling into markets in North America without leaving the comfort of their sofas. Economic activity has been westward facing, serving the growing markets in developed nations with near universality of broadband access. Most consumers in developed countries have access to wireline broadband access (DSL, fiber, cable, etc.), while developing nations have suffered from under investment on this front. Much of this access has been driven by an economic imperative: Households in these markets demand fast connections, and they have the disposable income to pay for those connections. Conditions have not been the same in developing nations, but the world is changing.

According to the ITU, there were 4,000 broadband Internet users in Indonesia in 2000. In 2011, there are 2.7 million. The picture starts to get interesting when you consider smartphone penetration. An adsmobi report shows that Indonesia had an estimated 30.7-million smartphone users at the end of 2012, and that number is expected to nearly triple to 81.5 million by 2015. In the eleven-year span between 2000 to 2011, the number of smartphone users in Turkey went from zero to over 7 million. A year later in 2012, that number more than doubled to around 15 million — nearly 20% population penetration. This trend is playing itself out globally, the digital divide is getting smaller and the opportunity to provide service in these markets is getting larger.

What does that mean for you and your business online? You want to capitalize on these burgeoning markets and build your service or application to easily reach a global audience and scale to meet that audience's demand, but that's a pretty daunting task. You need to deliver a seamless experience to millions of users who live thousands of miles away and who may be accessing a completely different Internet than your users down the street.

The idea that large groups of users are accessing a "completely different Internet" may seem like an overly dramatic way to talk about their unique preferences and cultural/language differences, but I use that phrase very literally. As the global allocation of IPv4 addresses dwindles, Internet Service Providers will bring new users online via IPv6 addresses, and those users will only be able to access sites and applications that have IPv6 addresses. IPv6 addresses can run dual-stack with IPv4 addresses — the same content can be delivered via either protocol from the same server — but many legacy hosting providers haven't made the necessary upgrades to make every piece of network hardware IPv6-compatible.

As you consider the challenge of preparing for a global boom in users, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Leverage a global infrastructure. You might not have the capital to build infrastructure around the world, so look for an IaaS partner that can provide resources in your targeted geographic markets. You need to be able to easily spin up IT resources where and when you need them to meet regional demand.
  • Get close to your end users. Proximity to customers and new markets is vital. You might not be able to host a server next door to every one of your users, but if you can get those users on your network quickly, they'll have the same kind of high-speed access to the content in your closest data center.
  • Don't pay too much. A simple pay-as-you-go service model helps the process of planning and growing strategically. You're able to focus on what you do best while avoiding the pitfalls of managing IT hardware.
  • Prepare for the future. Overarching technology concerns like the one I mentioned about IPv6 might not be very high on your list of priorities because they're just theoretical ... until they're not. By preparing for those future challenges, you'll save yourself a lot of grief when those "future" challenges eventually become "present" challenges.

SoftLayer has 13 data centers strategically located around the world, and we offer the same on-demand provisioning and month-to-month contracts in all of our facilities. We're continuing to build our network infrastructure to bring users onto our network via one of our network Points of Presence (PoPs) within 40 milliseconds from anywhere in the world. Our platform is IPv6-capable, and we have a team of people focused on finding and addressing future technological concerns before they impact our customers.

SoftLayer Global Network Map

To find out more about how your business can go global with SoftLayer, check out our network overview and learn more about what differentiates SoftLayer's data centers from the competition's.

-@quigleymar

November 16, 2012

Going Global: Domo Arigato, Japan

I'm SoftLayer's director of international operations, so I have the unique pleasure of spending a lot of time on airplanes and in hotels as I travel between Dallas, Amsterdam, Singapore and wherever else our event schedule dictates. In the past six months, I've spent most of my time in Asia, and I've tried to take advantage of the opportunity relearn the culture to help shape SoftLayer Asia's business.

To really get a sense the geographic distance between Dallas and Singapore, find a globe and put one index finger on Dallas and put your other index finger on Singapore. To travel from one location to the other, you fly to the other side of the planet. Given the space considerations, our network map uses a scaled-down representative topology to show our points of presence in a single view, and you get a sense of how much artistic license was used when you actually make the trip to Singapore.

Global Network

The longest currently scheduled commercial flight on the planet takes you from Singapore to Newark in a cool 19 hours, but I choose to maintain my sanity rather than set world records for amount of time spent in a metal tube. I usually hop from Dallas to Tokyo (a mere 14 hours away) where I spend a few days, and I get on another plane down to Singapore.

The break between the two legs of the trip serves a few different purposes ... I get a much needed escape from the confines of an airplane, I'm able to spend time in an amazing city (where I lived 15 years ago), and I can use the opportunity to explore the market for SoftLayer. Proximity and headcount dictated that we spend most of our direct marketing and sales time focusing on the opportunities radiating from Singapore, so we haven't been able to spend as much time as we'd like in Japan. Fortunately, we've been able organically grow our efforts in the country through community-based partnerships and sponsorships, and we owe a great deal of our success to our partners in the region and our new-found friends. I've observed from our experience in Japan that the culture breeds two contrasting business realities that create challenges and opportunities for companies like SoftLayer: Japan is insular and Japan is global.

When I say that Japan is insular, I mean that IT purchases are generally made in the realm of either Japanese firms or foreign firms that have spent decades building reputation in market. Becoming a trusted part of that market is a time-consuming (and expensive) endeavor, and it's easy for a business to be dissuaded as an outsider. The contrasting reality that Japanese businesses also have a huge need for global reach is where SoftLayer can make an immediate impact.

Consider the Japanese electronics and the automobile industries. Both were built internally before making the leap to other geographies, and over the course of decades, they have established successful brands worldwide. Japanese gaming companies, social media companies and vibrant start-up communities follow a similar trend ... only faster. The capital investment required to go global is negligible compared to their forebears because they don't need to build factories or put elaborate logistics operations in place anymore. Today, a Japanese company with a SaaS solution, a game or a social media experience can successfully share it with the world in a matter minutes or hours at minimal cost, and that's where SoftLayer is able to immediately serve the Japanese market.

The process of building the SoftLayer brand in Asia has been accelerated by the market's needs, and we don't take that for granted. We plan to continue investing in local communities and working with our partners to become a trusted and respected resource in the market, and we are grateful for the opportunities those relationships have opened for us ... Or as Styx would say, "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto."

-@quigleymar

November 8, 2012

Celebrating the First Anniversary of SoftLayer Going Global

In October, SoftLayer's data center in Singapore (SNG01) celebrated its first birthday, and our data center in Amsterdam (AMS01) turned one year old this week as well. In twelve short months, SoftLayer has completely transformed into a truly global operation with data centers and staff around the world. Our customer base has always had an international flavor to it, and our physical extension into Europe and Asia was a no-brainer.

At the end of 2011, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of our revenue was generated by companies outside of North America. Since then, both facilities have been fully staffed, and we've ratcheted up support in local startup communities through the Catalyst program. We've also aggressively promoted SoftLayer's global IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) platform on the trade show circuit, and the unanimous response has been that our decision to go global has been a boon to both our existing and new customers.

This blog is filled with posts about SoftLayer's culture and our SLayers' perspectives on what we're doing as a company, and that kind of openness is one of the biggest reasons we've been successful. SoftLayer's plans for global domination included driving that company culture deep into the heart of Europe and Asia, and we're extremely proud of how both of our international locations show the same SLayer passion and spirit. In Amsterdam, our office is truly pan-European — staffed by employees who hail from the US, Croatia, Greece, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Ireland and England. In Singapore, the SoftLayer melting pot is filled with employees from the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and New Zealand. The SoftLayer culture has flourished in the midst of that diversity, and we're a better company for it.

All of this is not to say the last year has not been without challenges ... We've logged hundreds of thousands of air miles, spent far too many nights in hotels and juggled 13-hour and 6-hour time zone difference to make things work. Beyond these personal challenges, we've worked through professional challenges of how to make things happen outside of North America. It seems like everything is different — from dealing with local vendors to adjusting to the markedly different work cultures that put bounds around how and when we work (I wish I was Dutch and had as many vacation days...) — and while some adjustments have been more difficult than others, our team has pulled through and gotten stronger as a result.

As we celebrate our first anniversary of global operations, I reflect on a few of the funny "light bulb" moments I've experienced. From seeing switch balls get the same awed looks at trade shows on three different continents to realizing how to effectively complete simple tasks in the Asian business culture, I'm ecstatic about how far we've come ... And how far we're going to go.

To infinity and beyond?

-@quigleymar

February 22, 2012

An Insider's Look at SoftLayer's International Success

It's been a long time since I put fingers to keyboard to write a blog, so I reckoned it was about time that I resurfaced on the interwebs. While this post won't announce any huge news like my last post about SoftLayer going live in Amsterdam, it might provide an interesting insight into what it's like to work for a dynamic, growing company.

My time at SoftLayer has been marked by change at rapid pace — more revolution than evolution, I suppose. This has been true both in terms of my professional development and the trajectory the company has taken in the past 18 months: I have gone through a merger that more than tripled the size of the company, watched the expansion of our footprint in the United States (a new data center in San Jose and new pods in Washington, D.C. and Dallas) and participated in our expansion overseas when I worked on the Amsterdam launch ... And if that list wasn't action-packed enough, I've been a part of some fantastic product launches (Flex Images and Object Storage being the two most recent examples).

When I joined SoftLayer, I kicked off fledgling analyst relations program, transitioned to corporate communications, and then seized the opportunity to serve as SoftLayer's EMEA general manager (temporarily until I found Jonathan Wisler to run the ship). Today, I'm responsible for driving our international operations in Amsterdam and Singapore, and so far, the work has gone according to the plan. Both facilities are up and running, and we have in-region folks in place to run the data centers and drive the region's business. As with every other DC under the SoftLayer hood, the Ops teams continue to knock it out of the park, and our business teams are just getting wound up.

Our early success in the new international markets speaks volumes about the support our customer base has given us as we've expanded, and now that we've got fully fledged dedicated teams to run in-region sales and marketing in Amsterdam and Singapore, we're expecting the result to be akin to throwing gasoline on an already-roaring fire. Users in Europe and Asia can look forward to seeing a lot more from SoftLayer over the coming months as we ramp up our events schedule and start to push the SoftLayer message throughout both geographies.

Suffice it to say, I am very excited about what lies ahead ... I suspect our competitors might not share the same enthusiasm.

-@quigleymar

November 7, 2011

Global Expansion: Amsterdam is LIVE!

At times, the meticulous planning, logistics and execution around the SoftLayer Amsterdam data center launch has felt like a clandestine military operation. Today, the wait is over! We're finally ready to go "LIVE" with our new state-of-the-art facility, along with network Points of Presence (PoPs) in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt.

Having a European presence not only gives us proximity to customers but a foothold into the entire continent to help drive more innovation and deliver a better end-user experience. Currently more than 50 percent of our business is done outside North America, so our continued expansion into international markets is so vital to long-term growth.

Amsterdam is our "digital gateway" into Europe, extending our capabilities so customers can deploy, scale and manage their Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions based on SoftLayer's private network. Here's a quick glimpse into what the new data center offers:

  • Capacity for more than 16,000 servers
  • Redundant network infrastructure
  • Fully-automated platform
  • Unique pod design concept

And here's an actual glimpse into the data center (taken last week as we were putting the final touches on the racks ... as you can see by the unbound cables at the backs of the server and the reference labels in the front):

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

We now have 13 data centers and 16 PoPs worldwide. Each data center functions independently, with distinct and redundant resources, while still being fully integrated into SoftLayer's existing facilities. The end result for our customers is maximum accessibility, security, and control.

Our goal for Europe is to deliver the BEST cloud, dedicated, and managed hosting solutions on the continent ... just like we do in North America and Asia. Ten months of painstaking research, work and preparation are done, and now our customers will get to reap the rewards.

What are you waiting for? Get your first server in Amsterdam! To celebrate the launch of the new facility, we're offering our Triple Double special on servers provisioned in AMS01 for a limited time: Free double bandwidth, double RAM and double HDD!

Now it's time to send our clandestine military operation's "Go Live Crew" to an undisclosed location to start preparing for our next strategic infiltration ...

-@quigleymar

October 25, 2011

Global Expansion: Amsterdam Ready to Launch

Where has the time gone? We still have confetti in our hair from the party celebrating the Singapore data center going online, and all of a sudden, we're announcing that SoftLayer servers are available in Amsterdam for presale.

If you saw the epic "SoftLayer is Coming to Town", you may have noticed a clip of the Go Live Crew (GLC) team members in Amsterdam at around the 1:05 mark:

GLC Amsterdam

With pallets of wrapped equipment and a few racks constructed in the background, it's pretty clear that as of October 1, the data center was a long way from calling itself a SoftLayer Pod. A few short weeks ago, I shared an update on the progress of our first European facility, and now we're less than two weeks away from the first customer servers being provisioned in Amsterdam!

Mark your calendar: November 7 - The date your first SoftLayer server in Amsterdam will go live.

In addition to customer servers being provisioned when the data center officially opens its doors, our network points of presence throughout Europe will be humming along nicely. That means if you're a SoftLayer customer in Europe, you should see some fantastic improvements in your network paths and speeds to servers in the United States (and Singapore) since you'll be able to hop onto our network sooner and ride with SoftLayer across the Atlantic.

Amsterdam Server Special
To coincide with the launch of our Singapore facility, we brought back the Triple Double server special to reward early adopters, and we're doing the same thing for customers in Amsterdam. Order a server in AMS with promo code TRIPLE, and you can double your RAM, bandwidth and HDD space for FREE.

The guys on the GLC in Amsterdam have worked tirelessly to ensure that everything is perfect (fueled by daily "Da Bobby G" sandwiches), and we're all ecstatic for customers to start taking advantage of the latest addition to the stellar SoftLayer infrastructure.

What are you waiting for? Shouldn't you be clicking through to pre-order your Amsterdam server right now?

-@quigleymar

October 7, 2011

Global Expansion: On to Amsterdam

Over the course of about a month, you were able to follow the build-out progress of SoftLayer's Singapore data center facility. Todd book-ended his coverage of the process with an early look on September 2 and the official "LIVE" announcement on October 3, and given the fantastic response from customers to those updates, we're going to keep them going from Amsterdam.

If you follow SoftLayer on Twitter or keep an eye on our Flickr account, the last time you saw the Amsterdam facility, it looked pretty empty. You might assume that with all the attention on Singapore, Amsterdam wasn't getting much attention, but you'd be wrong ... Folks have been working non-stop in Europe as well, and the facility looks beautiful:

SoftLayer Amsterdam

It's pretty obvious with the racks you see pictured that our go-live team has been on the ground and working hard in the new facility. We shipped loads of gear across a different ocean to get it to Amsterdam, but things will probably look pretty familiar.

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

SoftLayer Amsterdam

When Singapore went live on Monday, customers were ecstatic. We've already provisioned a few hundred servers in the new facility, and the chorus of users anxious about our European expansion has gotten louder as a result. As you can see, Amsterdam is coming along nicely, so you'll have a SoftLayer server in Amsterdam before you know it.

SoftLayer's growth internationally has been fueled by customer demand, so while we're working on Amsterdam, we'd love to hear where you'd like to see us next. Leave a comment with the country/region you think could best benefit from a local SoftLayer facility ... And if you agree with any of the ideas, be sure to post your agreement as well so we get an even clearer picture of customer demand.

More to come!

-@quigleymar

April 2, 2011

So ... What Does SoftLayer Do?

In the first quarter of 2011, SoftLayer presented in, exhibited at or sponsored at least thirty different conferences and events. We've globe-trotted to places like Orlando, San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas and Europa Park, Germany, to spread the word about who SoftLayer is and what we do. We've talked about data center pods over beers in Boston and showed some server skin at SxSW in Austin, and in the process, we got to share the SoftLayer story with literally thousands (if not tens of thousands) of people.

It turns out, there might be a few billion people on the planet that haven't heard of SoftLayer (yet), so every event we attend give us an opportunity to meet more people and explain the value SoftLayer can bring to their business. Take this week's Web 2.0 Expo for example: More than 500 people came by the our booth to learn more about us, get some cool swag or grab a beer during the booth crawl, and a hundred of them lined up to try their hand at the Server Challenge.

Server Challenge

Of the attendees who made it to the front of the pack to chat with one of us, it's remarkable to note how consistent some of the conversations were. Since we haven't really done a refresh to catch everyone up on what it is SoftLayer does (and since this blog is being presented in the sponsor section of Techmeme), a reintroduction may be in order.

Since the conversations I had at Web 2.0 Expo are so fresh in my mind, I thought I'd frame this little post around the most common questions we were asked by attendees learning about us for the first time (Warning: The responses to these general questions are SoftLayer's value statements, so they'll come off as very salesy ... Leading you to believe we'd answer any other way would be disingenuous, though):

"What does SoftLayer do?"
Simply put, SoftLayer is a hosting provider. That generalization doesn't do our business justice, though. We have ten data center facilities in Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Seattle, and we host more than 80,000 servers for more than 25,000 customers worldwide. We offer cloud, dedicated and hybrid environments and resources that allow businesses to outsource their IT, so they can focus on their core competencies and give their hosting infrastructure to the experts.

"How are you different from <Hosting Competitor>?"
SoftLayer was built with a focus on a few core values: Innovation, Empowerment, Integration and Automation. Our hosting platform offers a true hybrid experience - dedicated and cloud services are seamlessly integrated - that can be accessed and controlled by customers in a number of ways. Each SoftLayer server supports three different kinds of network traffic (public, private and out-of-band management), and customers have complete access to their server via free KVM over IP included with every server. Everything you can do in our portal can be done with our API, and we're an industry leader in product innovation.

Oh, and you can also spin up a cloud server on our platform in under 15 minutes and a dedicated server with your specs and operating system in 2-4 hours.

"Do you support <XYZ Technology>?"
If <XYZ Technology> is current, legal and useful, you can probably use it on our platform. If we don't directly offer software or services you need, we have droves of customers and partners who probably do, and we're happy to refer you to them. Given the unparalleled access you get to your SoftLayer hosting environment, the world is your oyster.

"Impressive sales pitch, but how do I know it's more than just a pitch?"
Our business is designed around making our customers happy. Our services are offered on month-to-month contracts, so we have to continue to provide great service to you or we lose your business. We can share customer success stories until we're blue in the face, but what really matters is what your experience is when you try us out.

Somewhere in there, you might have written me off as just some public relations guy, but I believe every word in those responses (as I'm sure my 550+ coworkers do). I'm not trying to claim that if you host with SoftLayer you'll never have another problem or that people don't make mistakes on our end, but as a company, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more devoted group of people focused on providing the best experience in the business.

-@quigleymar

December 13, 2010

Kevin Smith Gets It

I am a Kevin Smith fan. I admire him on a number of levels – his movies entertain, his podcasts with Scott Mosier (Smodcasts) are a funny, albeit twisted, trip into the unknown and his on stage performances / monologues / Q&A sessions never fail to please. Kevin is also a prodigious Twitterer (11,994 tweets and 1,716,849 followers).

My appreciation for Kevin and Scott Mosier has clambered up a notch following this article on Techdirt. Read the article and watch the embedded video and I think you will soon see what I mean. Smith and Mosier, for lack of a better phrase, ‘get it’ or perhaps they backed into things and ‘got it’ once it had happened. They understand the notion of building an audience; they understand the idea that it is tough to build something and monetize it immediately. In a world driven (supposedly) by instant gratification, they have introduced the word patience.

While it seems antithetical, there is a certain truth to this – there are very few businesses that went viral and surged to terrific profitability as soon as they started to Tweet or became active on Facebook. For 99.99% of businesses, audience takes time to build, which means that success takes time to come. And oftentimes, it does not come at all despite best efforts.

Twitter, Facebook, and podcasts are all part of a toolbox that, if used properly, can build something much more valuable than the stand-alone channel. As Techdirt author, Mike Masnick, points out; Smith has been able to build something that he can monetize by giving away some goods free. He has taken the time to build his audience and now he is reaping the rewards by monetizing other, ancillary efforts.

I am not implying that all business is equal – there are few comparisons to Kevin Smith that make sense for most business beyond the fact that everyone is producing something and trying to sell it. But I think the lessons are the same across most businesses – audience is not instant. In fact, I am not sure that it ever was (that said, I suppose beer was probably close to an instant success when the Egyptians invented it and stated to hieroglyph about it. It was probably the rage of Alexandria in short order). Simply beginning to Tweet and expecting instant success is a fool’s game. However, starting the game with the notion that Twitter, Facebook and whatever is next are useful tools to build toward success, forces a deal more patience and an almost deliberate approach. Here we can find success. Not overnight success for most, but success nonetheless.

As the saying goes recognizing the problem / challenge is half the battle. All we need to do now is figure out what to do next. I am working on it.

-@quigleymar

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